The Mockingbirds [ The Mockingbirds #1 ] by Daisy Whitney [ TW: rape ]

6:35 AM

Title: The Mockingbirds
Series: The Mockingbirds
Author: Daisy Whitney
Publication Date: November 2nd, 2010
Publisher: Little Brown
ISBN: 0316090530
Rating: 2 stars

The Mockingbirds was intended to be a quick read while I was sitting in Starbucks one day with a craving for some high school drama. I had seen mixed reviews for the book, so I went into it not expecting a whole lot. Unfortunately, my expectations were met.

Our protagonist is Alex, a teenage girl at a boarding school that demands excellence. After a night partying and drinking, she is raped by another student – Carter. The first part of the book primarily deals with the question of whether she was raped or not, as she cannot recall the details, and is, at first, unsure of if she just made a mistake or if Carter took advantage of her. Eventually she decides that, yes, it was rape, as she was in no state to consent, and so she calls on the Mockingbirds, a sort of secret society at Themis Academy that try and punish other students.

First, let’s get one thing clear – this isn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me for a few reasons I will expand on shortly. Second, a lot of the criticism of this book came from the fact that some people believed that Carter did not, in fact, rape Alex. I am not one of those reviewers, and I believe that it was CLEARLY rape, and it is somewhat confusing that this is a contested fact. 

I found much of the book cartoonish and over-the-top. This is especially noticeable in the beginning of the book, and although it decreases later on, it definitely impeded my getting absorbed into the story. Alex’s sarcasm is ridiculous – she doesn’t have that dry, witty sarcasm, but has that over-the-top sort of immature sarcasm of “yeah, okay, whatever.” Random scenes she imagines will be described to us when they really don’t need to be – for example, Alex hears the phrase “knock out” and so we get half a page of her imagining herself in a boxing ring. It just seems unrealistic and like a bit of a caricature of the way minds really work.

Themis Academy seemed to be suffering from a bit of Adults Are Useless. The faculty doesn’t believe that the students behave badly, so The Mockingbirds are the law. Maybe this wouldn’t bother me so much if they went to the police with their evidence, or forced the school to take notice, but that’s not the case. The punishment for every case is that the guilty party must relinquish what they love most. So if Carter is found guilty, his punishment is that he gives up water polo.

Giving up water polo. For raping a girl. I’d prefer him to be put in jail, get expelled, get put on a sex offender registry, SOMETHING. But giving up water polo? Really? That’s just offensive.

I wasn’t invested in any of the characters. Of course, I wanted Carter to be found guilty, but this was less for Alex’s sake and more for the principle of the thing. Alex’s friends seemed to each have one specific personality trait that was played up, so they didn’t seem like real people. Instead of any sort of character development or fleshing out personalities, more attention was given to describing their outfits. The teachers were useless. It’s unfair to call them characters, really, they were just there to show that Alex couldn’t get help from the school. 

Oh, Alex entered into a relationship with one of the Mockingbirds, Martin. I didn’t buy the romance at all, primarily because the text claims they were in love. There was very little chemistry, and I thought it was more realistic when it seemed like Alex was using Martin to get over her trauma. Towards the beginning of the book, Martin was introduced as a guy Alex only really knows because he’s friends with her best friend’s boyfriend. Then, towards the middle, they begin to strengthen their friendship, and that was believable and totally fine. Then, suddenly, Alex remembers that she wanted to be with Martin at the party where she got drunk, and not long after, they’re admitting their love for each other. It was just kind of an abrupt change.

So, The Mockingbirds isn’t a keeper for me, unfortunately, and it wasn’t the most enjoyable read. I had to force myself to finish it over the course of three days, when I was whizzing through other books and dreading having to re-open this one. I might still read other works by the author if the synopsis catches my eye, but I’m not reading the sequel. 

About the author

I root for young girls neglected by their narrative. I search for diversity in a cast of characters. I do not hesitate to critique something I find offensive or lacking in quality.